Day 23

I’ve stopped getting better. Even I know that. Like, I’m not getting worse or anything, well, I don’t think so, but I’m just not getting better. It’s like I’m stuck at this betterness.

Day 24

Dad Person has his worried face on as he listens to Dr Dan explain things. Mavis Davis has pulled the privacy-curtain around the consultation but I can feel Old Grey leaning over for a listen. Anyway, I will tell him everything later, so it’s no problem, he’s welcome to the news. The talk goes on some time and includes discussions on a move to Dublin or London and transplants and lists and such things. I don’t say much. When the wind blows out of the talk they look to me.

‘Any questions, Kyle?’ Mavis Davis asks, though not before she has a route cleared for an abrupt exit. She is already pushing the curtain back.

‘Tell me, Mavis,’ I ask. ‘Why is it that you are a doctor and the tall fellow here is a mister?’

‘It’s just a title of respect for surgical consultants, Kyle. Mister Bradley is still Doctor Bradley. There’s nothing in it.’

‘Well, it’s a bit arseways, if you ask me.’

‘Nobody’s asking you, Kyle.’

‘Yes you were. You definitely asked me, everybody heard. And, actually, Mavis, in the old days, doctors used not do their own surgery, like the cutting and chopping and tying and the bloody messy stuff. Instead they’d bring in a butcher or a slaughterer or someone skilled with a knife and stand and instruct during operations. And that cutter and chopper was called Mister whatever-his-name-was and, well, it has kind of stuck. So, it seems, you’re working for a butcher.’

Dr Dan’s slanted bony shoulders are rocking as Mavis Davis makes a noisy escape clucking her tongue.

‘He reads a lot of books,’ Dad Person offers.

Day 25

Dr Dan and Mavis Davis stand by my bed. It is morning.

‘How’s our footballer?’ Mr Bradley asks.

‘Tell me, Doctor Dan?’ I ask him. ‘Where does light go? Like, I mean, does it just keep going forever and ever and ever, travelling out into the infinite? Or does it falter and weaken and fall? Does gravity get a hold of it and pull it down? Gravity is a tricky thing.’

‘Light keeps on going,’ he tells me. ‘That’s how we see the stars.’

‘Is it?’ I ask him. ‘Are we sure? And, if so, is light a wave or a particle? Or both? If being both is possible? Or is it, in fact, neither?’

‘It’s a wave, isn’t it? An electro-magnetic wave.’

‘Is it?’ I ask him. ‘How would I know? But is it, perhaps, a charge moving from one entity to another, from one body or source to another, and we just see the journey as a wave. I have been thinking about it and I think it explains everything. I think it explains us. I think part of us is like a charged particle of light. We come from one big light and now we are here in this entity; and when we are finished in this entity or it is finished with us we go back to the one big light. And maybe, from there, we go again. Or, maybe, we never leave there, not really, that what is here is only a resonance of our actual real self, a kind of reflection. Maybe we are the light.’

‘Why do you think that, Kyle?’ he asks.

‘Just something I saw,’ I tell him.

They gather around in the evening visiting hours.

‘Any joy on Sunlight?’ I ask.

They shake their heads.

‘Jaysus, I tried every internet search engine and chat-room I can think of,’ Boyish Girl says. ‘Those chat-rooms are full of weirdoes.’

‘She’s been on that computer every night,’ Girlish Boy says. ‘She’s been asking people all around the world. I’ve no idea about that computer stuff.’

‘I’ve tried a bunch of questions into AltaVista, Ask Jeeves, Yahoo, and Northern Light,’ Boyish Girl continues. ‘Also tried the new Google one. But, we just don’t have anything to go on. I might have better luck in a newsgroup. But looking for a girl with white skin and red hair, in Ireland? Jaysus, it’s like going out on a wet day looking for a puddle.’

‘Thanks,’ I tell her. ‘You are doing great. And it’s orange-yellow hair, but don’t worry, we’ll find her.’ And I break into song, ‘I just can’t help believing.’ And finish with, ‘Uh huh huh.’ I give Dad Person a smile. Dad Person is a big Elvis fan. He has those old record things and he does the Uh huh huh voice when he has had a few pints of Harp. Apparently, Elvis used to say that a lot. I get no response to my rendition and imitation of the King. ‘And, hey,’ I continue, ‘better get your computing stuff done pronto. They’re going to explode or something at midnight on New Year’s Eve. And banks and businesses will fall, money will disappear into an abyss or something, and the world economy will collapse and there will be wars and it will be the finish of man. They say 1999 will be the end of the world. And they’re right. That Millennium Bug is going to kill us.’ I get blank faces. ‘Well, either that, or nothing at all is going to happen. It’s hard to know.’

Boyish Girl laughs. ‘Jaysus, it’s just an internal computer clock thing, Kyle, the Y2K problem. It will hardly be the end of the world.’

‘You can never be sure with these things,’ I tell her. ‘Computers and the internet, and now these mobile phones are taking over. Could it be a great conspiracy, a Trojan horse, a takeover by an alien evil empire? Who runs the internet? What’s this Gateway chap about? And who is this Nokia guy? Could he be a dark lord?’

Day 26

I have the dream again. Except this time it is daytime and I am wide awake and so I know that it is not a dream, but a memory. And I know now, how I know, what I know. Well, I think I do. And when visiting time comes I tell them about it. Old Grey and Old Bald are tuned in and don’t miss a word. Dr Dan and Mavis Davis are here too.

‘I felt as if I was light and floating. No, not floating, rising. Yes, that’s it, rising and that I had no weight. I still had a shape but not a body as such, just different. And there was something around me, like curtains, endless curtains. Maybe not curtains, but veils, kind of dark and kind of see-through. But there were gazillions of them, I think, it’s hard to be sure about any of it. And below me I could see the football pitch and a group gathered near the centre-field, then I could see Ireland like on one of those satellite pictures they show on the television weather forecasts, then I could see the Earth falling away and then there were other worlds, zillions of other stars and worlds with wonderful sparkly things and places with stars and planets of all colours, some planets dark, some planets even more beautiful than ours, some huge big fantastic things, some little planetoids or tiny round rock things. It was like I was in some sort of soft funnel or chute or conveyor. I don’t know. Then at the end of this chute there was a great gleaming light that was . . . well, it was as if it was calling to me. No, not calling, but waiting. And waiting with all the patience and kindness that is humanly possible. No not humanly, more than that, much more than that. And I think that is the one big light.’ And I look to Dr Dan.

He nods and then he asks, ‘And were you afraid, Kyle?’

‘No, not even a small bit,’ I tell him. ‘I was confused. But I felt safe, comfortable. It’s weird, but it was kind of natural, like I should be there, like I belonged there.’

‘What did it feel like?’ Dr Dan asks.

‘It felt the way it used to feel when I was small and Dad Person collected me from school and brought me home holding my hand. It felt the way it used to feel when he put the key in the lock and opened the door and we went in.’

‘You mean, it felt like going home?’ Dr Dan asks.

‘Yes, that’s it exactly. It felt like home.’

There is quiet in the room. Even Old Grey is short of a comment.

‘Jaysus, Kyle,’ Boyish Girl says, and everyone laughs.

‘You know, Kyle,’ Dr Dan says, ‘the medical profession has a view on such, apparently mystical, events. When the body suffers a failure or crisis the brain goes into a form of reflex self-protection. Inhibitory systems fail. Areas are shut down; this might explain you seeing dark veils. Energy and oxygen are concentrated into a core region of the brain provoking over stimulation of the visual nerves; this might explain the one gleaming light. Research suggests that certain areas of the brain burst into a final pulse of signals; this might explain why some people get a life review like a series of images, and this might explain your journey through those other worlds. And through the trauma the brain emits a blast of endorphins, neurotransmitters provoking a sense of pleasure, and so you would feel safe and comfortable.’ He pauses and looks around the gathered faces. ‘But, that’s only one view, that’s only the medics.’

‘Yeah, well, what do they know?’ I suggest. ‘They say Elvis is dead.’ And I give Dad Person a wink. Anyway, there was something else that I didn’t tell them.

Mark Mulholland

Mark Mulholland is not from the USA or the UK or even Australia or anywhere snazzy like that. Mark, through no fault of his own, was born and raised in Ireland. However, when fifteen, as luck would have it, he underwent a stroke of genius and left schooling to linger around a second-hand book store. By further miraculous intervention he slipped his way into local employment and with his small earnings bought books by their cover or title or by some indefinable inclination. The whole world was to be found in that book store, he says, and everything a boy needed to learn could be learned there. He has been educated in this way ever since.
Mark writes about light, gravity, God, purpose, belief, behaviour, death, good, bad, all the goofy stuff, and he comes at these questions from odd angles. Because what Mark eventually figured out is that nobody knows anything about everything. So he might as well have a go at it.
Mark is the author of the acclaimed novel A Mad and Wonderful Thing and his short fiction has been published in the USA, Ireland, and the UK. He has been shortlisted for the Dorset Fiction Award. He lives in rural France.